Biden Administration officials reportedly have turned to new legal routes ahead of an impending debt-ceiling crisis. Officials in the Justice and Treasury Departments are reportedly looking at challenging the constitutionality of the very idea of the debt limit.

The White House has been staring down House Republicans after GOP representatives narrowly passed a bill to slash government debt spending. The debt is capped at $31.4 trillion – a number that Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned would force the U.S. into default by June. She says the government will not be able to pay its bills if the debt ceiling isn’t raised.

Historically, the debt ceiling has been lifted by Congress whenever it was needed. Legal scholars in the White House pointed out a clause in the 14th Amendment that may prevent a government default.

The theory rests on the clause that states, “the validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.”

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Some officials believe that the language overrides the borrowing limit since the government appropriates the debt payments for government programs like national defense and government worker pensions.

Still, a White House action on the theory is likely to face broad legal challenges from Republicans.

President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy will meet in person on May 9 to negotiate ideas for the national debt crisis. It is unclear what compromises are possible – with Republicans in the House hoping to slash spending but Democratic proposals from the White House and Senate that demand a “clean” increase to the ceiling.

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